The Return of Rwanda’s Exiled King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa – a pillar to achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Roi kigeli

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda recently called upon the Rwandan Government to help bring back the exiled last Rwandan King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, who was overthrown in 1961 and currently lives in the United States of America. The king’s return is a key factor for achieving sustainable peace and stability as well as several Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs).

SDG Goal number 16 states: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Before colonialism, the Rwandan monarchy ruled for at least 1000 years, people lived together without racism and ethnic divisions. The king was the supreme leader for all his people. Wars fought were only for conquests but not against his people.

However, things changed with colonialism and by the end of 1959, the Rwandan society was deeply divided alongside ethnic lines and several people were killed, so many others were forced into exile. The king was eventually overthrown in 1961 and a republic was proclaimed, then independence granted on 7th July 1962. Continued animosity and ethnic divisions marked the following years after independence and by April 1994, those divisions culminated into the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, where almost one million lives were killed in just 100 days.

After the genocide, many people believe that the return of the exiled king would be a key factor in consolidating unity and reconciliation amongst Rwandan people. It is well known that during the monarchy period, people never killed each other due to ethnic differences, they embraced each other, inter-married and life went on. Similarly, many Rwandans believe that the return of the exiled king, would be a good omen for the country. The king would be expected to play a big role in unity and reconciliation of his people. This would mark the real beginning of sustainable peace and stability thus fulfilling SDG goal number 16.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda has taken a hard decision to demand the Rwandan government to help bring back the exiled king. This decision is in line with the party’s policy on resolving the persistent refugee problem. The party resolved that in order to completely end the refugee problem, the exiled king should be assisted to return to his country. DGPR believes that his return will be the exodus of the return of all remaining Rwandan refugees and it will be a pillar for bringing sustainable peace and security to Rwanda and the great lakes region.

The Rwandan government has been requested to recognize the exiled king as a former head of state and provide him with all the privileges that are guaranteed by law for a former head of state. The king cannot come back as an ordinary citizen. He represented Rwanda before the UN and he also requested for independence.

The party finds it difficult for the country to achieve sustainable development and social justice for the Rwandan people when the issue of the exiled king is still unresolved. It would be hard for Rwanda to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) when peace and stability is not guaranteed.

/ Frank Habineza

President, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda

President African Greens Federation

Honorary Doctorate in Democracy and Human Rights, Bethel collage, USA 

Reducing inequality within and among countries

In 2010 the level of extreme poverty in the world had been cut in half compared to 1990. The fact that billions of people have been lifted out of extreme poverty is a huge success. Nevertheless 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty and the gaps between the rich and the poor of the world have never been larger.

Goal 10 of the SDG’s acknowledges the fact that inequality is not just a problem between countries but also within them. That’s a fact both in rich and poor countries. All governments have to deal with the exclusion and discrimination against vulnerable groups and make sure that wealth is shared and equal opportunities given to all without discrimination.

Discrimination is a violation of human rights and it hinders generations of people to have the same opportunities that others often take for granted. Equal access to education, inclusion in the political system, in the pension system, access to the labour market and an end to discriminatory laws are vital if we are to succeed in this. Today minorities in some countries even lack the basic right to clean drinking water or access to electricity.

The fight for equal rights and equality is far from over. We can see it in the brave wheelchair protests in Bolivia, we can see it in the fight for a decent pension system in many countries; we can see it in the continued fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide; we can see it in the still ongoing discriminatory treatment of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar; and we see it in practices of several EU member states’ against the Romani peoples of Europe.

Changing attitudes and patterns of discrimination is one part. But it also has to be followed by tougher measures, such as getting binding legal frameworks in place. In the European context with sanction mechanisms against EU states that violate human rights by for example discriminating minorities.

In 1952, when the foundation of the EU was laid through the European Coal and Steel Community, member states agreed to lay sanctions of those who violated the rules on goods and services. But more than 60 years later there still are no sanctions for violations on human rights.

All EU member states have signed and ratified the European convention on human rights. But even today, when blatant violations against human rights are happening in Spain, in Hungary, Poland, but also in Sweden with regards to minority rights, accountability is lacking.

Human rights are just that – human. They apply to all humans, regardless of where you were born, your language, culture, religion, gender or ethnicity. These rights cannot be negotiated.

Part of my work this legislative term is to try to achieve a binding legal framework on human rights within the EU, combined with sanctions against member states that violate them.

/Bodil Valero

Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Greens (Miljöpartiet de gröna)

 

 

Green Forum

Resistencia

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Including marginalized and vulnerable is crucial for sustainable development

The concept of sustainable development was first introduced in response to environmental concerns. However it has been defined primarily by the mainstream tradition of economic analysis, which tends to marginalize the issue of ecological and social sustainability itself. But recently, many scholars have advanced different critical perspectives to the analysis of sustainable development. The separation of environment, society and economy often leads to a narrow approach.

Thus the issues related to society are challenging the present socio-economic structure, in particular the sustainability of communities and the maintenance of cultural diversity. Furthermore a competent approach to sustainable development requires combining insights from various critical approaches and perspectives. For instance the main issues in this respect are lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution. And the keyword is Community participation’ and ‘strengthening civil society’ that refers to the support to mobilize individual and community potential to take effective action based on need is critical to reach the goal.

“Sustainable Development Goals, 17 goals to transform the world” was adopted by United Nation in 2015. “Partnership for the goals” is one of these 17 goals. Nevertheless enhancing and achieving this goal is essential for achieving the other 16 Sustainable Development Goals. It is also important to emphasize that civil society has a crucial role in “Partnership for the goals.

Swedish international development agency (Sida) explains its objective in partnership with civil society in developing countries as follow: ”The overall objective of Sida’s cooperation with civil society is a vibrant and pluralistic civil society in developing countries that can effectively contribute to poverty reduction in all its dimensions. The work will be conducted with a human rights perspective, to strengthen the individual’s own right to influence their own lives and development.”

On the other hand, strengthening civil society to respond to local needs requires the leaders of grassroots on all level. Furthermore, including women and marginalized population as active leaders and decision makers remains as the main challenges.  According to all evidence, positive and sustainable change and development must proceed from those who are supposed to benefit from the changes. Thus one of the main challenges of sustainable development is the bottom-up approach and the inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable populations and especially women. This means critical, but minimal support needs to mobilize individual and community potential to take effective action based on need.

/Manijeh Mehdiyar

Member of the Regional Council, 1.e. vice president in Gothenburg board of healthcare

PhD at Inst. of Biomedicine, Sahlgrenska Academy

Active member of the Swedish Green party in Gothenburg 

 

What to do(ughnut) about the economy?

Traditionally development goes hand in hand with economic growth and the health of nations is measured in monetary terms through gross domestic product (GDP). However, it is evident by looking at the current state of the world that economic growth is not enough to provide basic human rights such as health, water, and food, nor does it after a certain point make us any happier. Social and economic inequalities are growing, with the gap between rich and poor getting deeper. Forests are shrinking, there are less fish in the oceans and biodiversity loss is speeding up. Our global economy relies on uneven development, which is one of the fundamental characteristics of the capitalist system[1].

Yet, economic growth and its attached policies are still considered the panacea to have development and sustainable societies. Einstein once said that the way of thinking that got you into a mess is not the kind that will get you out of it. So, why is the question what we want from a society, and if the current structures are allowing us to do so, rarely asked?

Economist Kate Raworth decided to ask this question by saying: “what if economics started with human wellbeing rather than money?” and thus developing a new type of system: doughnut economics! Rather than emphasising the flow of money, Raworth’s theory places our social foundations such as social equity, energy, health and food (exhaustive list in the picture below) at the centre. Moreover, she also added our planetary boundaries in another layer, based on Johan Rockström and his colleagues’ work, creating the outline of just a doughnut. Planetary boundaries refer to things such as ozone depletion, climate change and ocean acidification, all with limits we need to stay within in if we are to avoid disastrous and irreversible environmental change.

doughnut

Pictures showing the doughnut, planetary boundaries and social foundations

The challenge is to ensure our social foundation while keeping within the planetary boundaries and

doughnut2how we do this practically. However, today, as we know through the sustainable development goals, none of the social foundations have reached their boundary i.e. where everyone has access to clean water, education etc., while three of the planetary boundaries have been overrun. As Raworth argues, in order to meet human rights and ensure wellbeing of all people within the planetary boundaries we need to get into the doughnut, a safe space for humanity where the earth and its systems are supported. So, who is up for a doughnut?

 

/Anna Tranberg  

Works with research and innovation at the Swedish governmental agency for innovation systems

Federation of Young European Greens COP21 delegate

[1] To read more check out: Coe, N M., Kelly, P F., and Yeung H W., (2007) Economic geography. A contemporary Introduction. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Greenwashing – Paint it Green

In my hometown there is an old company which is somehow still working. The company has a wall which separates the factory grounds from the street and which turned out to be quite suitable for street art. As the number of factory workers went down and the labour rights of those still working decreased, the company owner decided to paint that wall in bright colors. The practice for the people to leave their creative messages on the wall still remains. But what also remains is the practice of painting the wall into brighter and more cheerful colures after each new graffiti and each new layoff, although everything else is falling apart. This absurd case got me thinking if it is enough to just paint it all into lively colors and pretend everything is alright, while expecting the problems to disappear on their own.

With the rise of awareness and care for the environment, it has become popular for companies and sometimes even entire countries to, just like this company is painting its walls into bright colors, paint their image into something reminiscent of green and sustainability. Greenwashing – a term which has become commonly used in the situations where eco-friendly aspects of a product, politics or companies’ goal are pointed out through marketing manipulations. In practice it looks like this: the companies spend far more resources on appearing green than actually making their business sustainable.

¨Green is the new red¨ is a saying gaining popularity. This title has been well accepted by the big companies, so the focus on social responsibility is being increasingly shift towards nature, all with the aim of increasing profit. The examples of greenwashing can be seen everywhere, starting from the attempts to make the users see a product as eco-friendly by changing the visual identity of that product. Forest and flowery designs can so often be found on the packages of very harmful chemical products. McDonalds had a Europe campaign in 2009 when they changed the logo from yellow-red to yellow-green, without changing anything in their politics and the way the company works. In Serbia there are also ˝green¨ petrol stations which have no proof of sustainability nor any other sign of being different from the remaining stations apart from that ¨green¨ label which merely serves to decoy the users.

As usual, Coca Cola set high standards when it comes to ¨green¨ marketing. It recently became possible in some countries to buy Coke in green package, the only actual difference being a little less sugar and calories. Bottles made of eco materials are also a part of eco campaign, but as it turns out, the company has no proof to support their claim that the bottles don’t affect the environment and reduce carbon footprint.  Another seemingly useful campaign conducted by Coca Cola and some ecological organisations was the restoration of wetlands and flooded areas along Danube as well as preservation of freshwater resources. Maybe this campaign would seem appealing if we didn’t know the ways this type of production excessively exploits drinking water springs which were until yesterday public good and property of all citizens. A more striking example comes from India, where fizzy beverages factories excessively used drinking water sources, thus leading the local residents to the brink of starvation since there is  insufficient water to irrigate the crops. And then some other ¨experts¨ recommended to the same residents to solve their problem by acquiring Monsanto GMO seeds which demands less water.

By seeing what lies behind brightly painted walls and by merely busting greenwashing myths, we can make the first step towards a more sustainable society which is in accordance with the nature.

/Predrag Momcilovic

Project manager at Serbian Green Youth, research associate at Belgrade University, Serbia

Global challenges – local solutions

It is often said that climate challenges are global, but the emissions and solutions are local. Each municipality council around the world holds some of the most important keys to unlocking the threats to our future.

Let me give you some examples from my home town, Gothenburg, in western Sweden. Encompassing Scandinavia’s biggest port and Sweden’s major automotive industry, the city is a large transportation hub with a cluster of companies and researchers within logistics and transport. This cluster carries a huge potential for urgently needed innovations, to meet demands set by the politicians as well to create business opportunities for companies of the next generation.

The city has taken a decision to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from goods transport with at least 80 per cent by 2030 compared with 2010 and more than double public transport by 2035. The first ever bus line in Sweden run by electricity powered buses started here in April 2014. The test has been a success which today draws attention from around the world. A tunnel for commuter trains under the city shall make commuters choose public transport instead of private cars from 2026 onwards.

Waste heat from refineries and other industrial processes are keeping people’s homes warm, via district heating. New building techniques makes renovated houses and new-builds more energy efficient. Energy consumption in homes are to be reduced by 30 percent by 2020 compared to 1995.

But more can be done and needs to be done. The use of waste heat could be extended even more, if the district heating grids in Gothenburg and surrounding municipalities were better connected. Environmental criteria can be imposed more rigorously than today in public tendering. Here we politicians have an important role to play.

These are all examples of technical solutions that are absolutely vital if we are to live within the nature’s borders. But they are not enough. If we shall succeed with the necessary transformation of our societies, we also need a change in people’s mind set. And I believe this could be underway.

For some months a six hours working day has been tested at a retirement home in Gothenburg. The results are encouraging; sick leave rate is down, service quality up. Even so, conservative and liberal politicians want to stop the project. It’s too costly, they say. I believe there is another reason to it as well; that a shorter working day in their eyes sends the wrong signals to the Swedish work force in general. In my view though it would be a good thing if people spent more time with friends and family instead of working as much as possible in order to earn as much as possible so that they can consume as much as possible.

Another example that might indicate a broader change in mind set is that the sharing economy is on the rise. The car sharing organisation that I’m a member of has today 1 100 cars in fifty different cities in Sweden. And this is just one of eight similar organisations situated in Gothenburg. A neighbouring family of ours has spent vacations in Australia, New York, London, France… using home exchange. The transition movement offers an alternative perspective on the world we live in and how we could organise societies in order to handle the ecological, energy and economic crises that we, according to them, are facing.

We in the global North has a moral obligation to lead the way for a sustainable future. This should not be seen as a sacrifice: a sustainable world also brings with it life patterns that are more in line with what happiness research tells us we want the most; more time with our loved ones, more possibilities to self-fulfilment.

We are on the right path. And the most encouraging changes are taking place locally. Gothenburg is part of different networks were cities share experiences and develop joint projects in order to push ahead the transformation needed.

These local initiatives of course go hand in hand with national policies and international agreements. They seldom make headlines in media, but I believe that in the long run these local developments will prove the most important.

/Lars-Olof Karlsson

Chairperson Green Forum

 

Who sanctions the political debates?

In our societies, men are brought up with phenomenal ignorance, reflected into whole spectrum of insecurities and whenever woman speaks of her experience, it is ultimately perceived as attempt of indoctrination.  This irrational fear tends to tone down or delegitimize the debate on gender equality. This amplification mechanism is embedded in our political practices too and is contributing to status quo.  As we are pretending to progress towards gender-aware governance, it is astonishing to see the revitalization of men-led popular movements. It’s becoming apparent that non-male voices are being appropriated by the cause of a political revolution and thus, combating modern day sexism is truly frustrating.

I’m a male strongly attached to the leftist identity. For a very long time, I was considering my body and mind completely liberated from sexism – I had no habit of intentional discriminatory behavior and was poked and punched by patriarchy myself not once or twice. Looking at myself and my fellow activists I realized that we were all staring at the heavily airbrushed image of feminist men. We have figured our ways to whole new domain of political power by marching for gender equality with a rainbow flag in our masculine hands. My point is that non-male voices are still severely underrepresented and this has something to do with the power dynamics in our societies: it keeps circulating within the hemisphere of the hegemonic masculinity. We successfully replicated smelly social systems only camouflaged with our preferable politicized green/red color filters. (This is a social media analogy)

My friend once said: “privilege is like herpes, you either have it or not”. Brilliant. In case you have them, you surely are aware! Your body can feel it. It’s too embarrassing to talk about and you are forced to abstain from particular behavior. Oh and avoid treatment unless it’s absolutely necessary. A few weeks back, our green family members were shockingly accused of sexual harassment by their own colleagues. What’s even more shocking is that this didn’t come as a surprise to many. This story still waits to be addressed by the rest of the family but no structural discussion is anywhere to be found yet, which gives me slightly uncomfortable feeling. Would openly addressing sexism in our movement compromise our image as the most inclusive and progressive? Who sanctions these debates?

In my next blogs I will elaborate on the issue of sexism within the progressive movements.

/Gio Megrelishvili

Project Manager at the Federation of Young European Greens

Gender Studies master programme graduate 

El Tema del Agua en Guatemala – The topic of water in Guatemala

El pasado 22 de abril Día Mundial de la Tierra, organizaciones sociales, sindicales, campesinas e indígenas realizaron una larga marcha que inicio varios días antes y  culminó con una nueva petición al Gobierno y al  Congreso de la República para exigir una Ley de Aguas que sea incluyente e integral, la cual es requerida desde hace décadas en la Constitución Política de la República. Entre sus peticiones estuvo “exigir la recuperación de nacimientos, ríos, lagos, lagunas y costas marinas que han sido contaminadas, robadas y desviadas con propósitos mercantilistas”.

Esta marcha no es una casualidad, el tema del agua en Guatemala  está estrechamente relacionado con la situación de bajo Desarrollo Humano , de pobreza y desnutrición que vive más del 50% de la población, según el último censo de vivienda; así como la exclusión y la desigualdad que sufre el país, resultado de un Modelo de Crecimiento Socioeconómico excluyente. Estos eran compromisos de los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio y no fueron cumplidos,  y ahora, el tema del Agua se refuerza por su exigencia en los Objetivos del Desarrollo Sostenible.

Este modelo de crecimiento excluyente propició que la agricultura de exportación, la energía y la minería, altos consumidores de agua en el país, se hayan orientado hacia una economia de extracción sin control, con resultados depredadores y concentradores. Recientemente el ministro de ambiente dijo haber comprobado el desvío de una gran cantidad de ríos, causado por empresas productoras de monocultivos como la caña de azúcar, la palma africana y el banano; muy exigentes en el uso del agua. Esta acción deja a comunidades, municipalidades y pequeñas empresas, usuarias y beneficiarias, sin el acceso a ella y la producción de alimentos ha quedado seriamente afectada.

En Guatemala se han hecho más de diez propuestas en las ultimas décadas por la creación de una Ley de Aguas, pero siempre han encontrado adversarios poderosos que las han bloqueado, como como la iniciativa Ley para el Aprovechamiento y Manejo Sostenible de los Recursos Hídricos que aunque fue conocido por el Congreso de la Republica y tuvo dictamen favorable no llegó a la aprobación final, de esto hace ya 8 años. Ante la falta de una Ley de Aguas resulta imposible la regulación de su uso.

En el país urge una política de fortalecimiento de la producción de alimentos, una ley de desarrollo rural integral, un ordenamiento territorial, la conservación de los bosques y una gestión del uso integral y eficiente del agua. El cambio climático solo viene a agravar la situación de desigualdad que vive la población.

Luego de la marcha de las organizaciones sociales del 22 de abril, la Comisión Extraordinaria de Recursos Hídricos del Congreso, propiciará una socialización a diferentes sectores de la iniciativa de Ley Marco del Agua (abierta hasta el 31 de mayo 2016), tomando en cuenta todos los aportes que se han dado en años pasados por una ley de aguas.

/Matilde Baján

Project coordinator at CEMAT; Centro Mesoamericano de Estudios sobre Tecnología Apropiada 

 

English version: The topic of water in Guatemala

On 22 April, Earth Day this year, social organizations, trade unions, peasant and indigenous made a long march which started several days before and culminated with a new request to the Government and the Congress of the Republic of a Law on Water that is inclusive and comprehensive. Within the request was “a require of recovery of rivers, lakes and marine shores that have been contaminated, stolen and diverted due to mercantilist purposes”.

This march was not a single act-coincidence. The theme of water in Guatemala is closely related to the situation of a low Human Development, of poverty and malnutrition that more than 50 per cent of the population is subjected to (according to the most recent census of households); as well as the exclusion and inequality of the country. This is a result of an exclusionary model of socio-economic growth. These were commitments of the Millennium Development Goals and were not met by end 2015, and now the subject of water is reinforced through the Sustainable Development Goals.

This exclusive growth model led to an export of agriculture, energy and mining and a high consumption of water in the country. Recently the Minister of Environment verified the detours of a large number of rivers, caused by industrial monoculture-producing companies cultivating sugar canes, African palms and banana tree; which have a high demand for water. This action leads to communities, municipalities and small companies, other users and beneficiaries left without access to water and therefore their food production has been seriously affected.

In Guatemala there have been more than ten proposals made in the recent decades for the creation of a Law on Water, but there have always been powerful adversaries that have blocked the proposals. Such was the case with the initiated ‘Law for the sustainable utilization and management of water resources’ that even though it was acknowledged by the Congress and had a favorable opinion have not yet reached the final approval although 8 years have passed. In the absence of a Law on Water it is impossible to regulate the use.

In Guatemala there has been an urgent need for a policy of strengthening food production, a law of comprehensive rural development, land use, forest conservation and management of the integral and efficient use of water. The climate changes will only aggravate the situation of inequality which the population is suffering from.

After the march of the various organizations on April 22, the Extraordinary Commission of Water resources of the Congress, now encourages input from different sectors as regards the initiative of Law on Water (this will stay open until May 31, 2016), taking into consideration all the actions that have been taken during the last years for a Law on Water.

Gender equality in Serbian politics

Politician, politician, woman, politician, politician, women, ….

The (mis)use of mathematics for successful avoidance of true gender equality

Gender equality is term very well known in Serbian politics, but there its prevalence stops. Recent general elections withheld on 24th April, confirmed that political parties are ready to meet legal requirements but have no initiative to go any step further. Most of the candidates lists featured women on every third place, respecting official 1/3 gender quota. Last convolution of the National Parliament featured 33.73% of the woman MPs proving that at the current stage it is only math that can keep women above the negligence line.

During her Women’s’ day speech, coordinator of Governmental Coordination body for gender equality said that everything we do vesnawe do for next generation of women to come after us. This might be just poetic sentence but more likely it illustrates how gender equality is rather seen as alienated status, to be achieved in far future because now its to far from our understanding of democracy and political system we live and work in.

Academy of women leadership conducted research in November 2015 on several aspects of gender equality in political parties in Serbia. Their research showed that women are more likely to run on local elections, compared to men running on national elections. This data becomes terrifying when confronted with statistic that shows only 16% of women holding positions on local level, after the elections in 2014. More over trend of all male local and municipal councils was rising as women are more likely to drop out during mandate and in most cases have been replaced by man.

Another finding of this study shows that 60% men and 50% women see gender equality as predominantly a women topic and in competences of exclusively women organizations/forums. It shows that there is no consensus on seeing gender equality as a transversal aspect. Thus distinction between women and men sectors gets strengthened and quotas get to be last stop instead of being last resort.

Mentioned Coordination body for gender equality was established in 2014 and after preliminary research it adopted National strategy for gender equality for the period 2016-2020, with action plan until 2018.  Participation of women in political and decision making processes is mostly regulated by introduction of quota system (30%) and administrative regulations. It is also mentioning active work with political parties on education and exchange of good practices to ensure strong participation of women in and between elections. But as we have witnessed, not a single percent changed yet and 30% quota still acts at the same time as cap, administrative requirement and supportive measure.

The tragedy of political underrepresentation does not start with inadequate quota, it is rather a mere repercussion of patriarchal matrix in Serbian society as whole. The re-traditionalization effect is enhanced by ever more present shift of the care work from public to private sphere, pressuring women to stay at home or work in the “care” sector (education, health, cleaning, NGOs). This situation leaves very little capacity for women to participate in institutional political life and/or running for positions.

How do we break through? Government and officials need to pledge their support and involvement in process of building gender equality, shifting from the notion of necessary measure to the notion of desired status.  Media and civil sector play pivotal role in indicating how this is transversal framework of all policies and processes.

Importance of gender equality in politics for Serbia is not only to ensure equal participation and representation. It matters also as step to further democratization by opening politics to diverse groups and reclaiming it from political elites.

/Vesna Jusup 

Works with member relations at the European Green Party secretariat 

Former project leader at Cooperation and Development Network of Eastern Europe